Prescription for a Superior Existence
By Josh Emmons
(Scribner, Hardcover, 9781416561057, 256pp.)
Publication Date: June 10, 2008
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Jack Smith is your average single thirtysomething businessman. That is, his life revolves around work, failed relationships, alcohol, painkillers, and pornography, and he sees no reason to change. But when he unwittingly comes into conflict with a burgeoning new California religion called Prescription for a Superior Existence, his routine is shattered and put back together so fantastically that his actions could impact the whole world.
Against a backdrop of environmental cata-strophe and postmillennial tension, Jack's troubles begin when he is fired from his job and falls in love with Mary, the daughter of PASE's founder, and they reach an apex with his ab-duction and installation at one of the religion's spiritual training centers near San Francisco. As he is forced to learn about PASE's ascetic practices, his aversion and skepticism are challenged by a sense of community and purpose previously unknown to him. In the context of PASE, Jack discovers that he might not be average, that he might in fact be extraordinary, and the discovery is intoxicating. Nothing is as it seems, however -- not PASE, its enigmatic founder, his comrades, or even Mary -- and the question of whether he and those around him are headed toward group transcendence or its opposite takes on global significance
A thrilling and timely novel about a flawed, ordinary man who is torn between love and the appeal of a powerfully seductive cult, Prescription for a Superior Existence explores the bounds of faith and human connection, and showcases the spectacular imagination of one of our most talented young writers.
Born in 1973, Josh Emmons was raised in Northern California and received an MFA and teaching fellowship from the University of Iowa. He recently won the James Michener-Copernicus Society of America Award, which counts Michael Cunningham, Ann Patchett, Elizabeth McCracken, Ethan Canin, Nathan Englander, Adam Haslett, and Ann Packer as former winners. He lives with his wife in New Orleans.
"With Prescription for a Superior Existence, Josh Emmons has created a wholly original, brave, and disturbingly plausible novel, an existential, theological, fin du monde thriller about star-crossed orphans, twenty-first-century cults, environmental angst, and the extremes and consequences of desire." -- James P. Othmer, author of The Futurist
"In Prescription for a Superior Existence, Josh Emmons' hero Jack Smith -- a man of questionable appetites, high skepticism, and touching vulnerability -- falls through the rabbit-hole of new-fangled California religion. The result is an acidly hilarious, tightly plotted adventure that folds big themes, romantic moments, and a little thing called the end of the world into its pages. Both a wicked skewering of religious cults and a finely wrought testament to their power, this novel reads like Raymond Chandler rollicking through the house of L. Ron Hubbard. It's as probing and smart as it is moving, hopeful, and sweet." -- Alix Ohlin, author of Babylon and Other Stories